Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cunningham, The Buffett Essays Symposium

In 1996, as a way to launch The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, which went on to become an international bestseller, Lawrence A. Cunningham conceived of and hosted a two-day symposium at the Cardozo School of Law in New York City. Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger were, of course, the stars of the show. The proceedings were taped, and lots of photos were taken.

For the twentieth anniversary of the event Cunningham put together a slim volume, about a hundred pages, of excerpts from the proceedings, along with a host of unfortunately grainy photos. The Buffett Essays Symposium (Harriman House) provides highlights from four panel discussions: on corporate governance, finance and investing, mergers and acquisitions, and accounting and taxation. The contributions of academics and other panelists have been, for the most part probably mercifully, excised, except where they are necessary to provide context for the responses of Buffett and Munger. Here and there Cunningham includes brief boxed commentary from current academics and market participants.

Buffett fans will appreciate this book. Buffett and Munger comment expansively on a range of topics—from getting a first class CEO to that perennial fixation, Buffett’s death, in this case how Berkshire stock price would react to his death.

Cunningham reminisces about the logistics of the symposium (like forgetting to arrange to get the Buffett family to the airport) and events surrounding the symposium (for instance, officially witnessing Warren Buffett’s signing an updated version of his will). And then there are all the pictures, which seem to indicate that rich, engaged people simply don’t age.

The book is modestly produced—a paperback with a black and grey cover, nothing glossy here. As befits the coverage of a down-home value investor.

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